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The Master

by

The Master Cover

 

Staff Pick

Reading The Master was an unexpected pleasure. I was not particularly attached to Henry James (though this novel has provoked a renewed interest), nor am I often fond of historical or biographical fiction. The Master surpasses such stereotypes. Toibin's depiction of James is a nuanced, emotional portrait of an almost unknowable figure — the artist in a life more imagined than lived. Toibin's pacing and prose are exquisite; his novel is a graceful, thoughtful meditation on writing and philosophy, as well as an astute exercise in psychology. Its resonance has continued all year long.
Recommended by Jill Owens, Powells.com

At the start of the 1900s, Henry James produced three masterpieces in as many years: first The Wings of the Dove, then The Ambassadors, and next The Golden Bowl. The Master introduces James six years prior, in January 1895, on the eve of his great public failure, as "Guy Domville" premieres on the London stage and wholly, horribly, flops.

"Nothing had prepared him for this," Tóibín writes. "For his friends, this night would be entered into the annals of the unmentionable, pages in which he had so studiously avoided having his name appear."

Nothing could be worse than that, to be exposed.

The Master is provocative, nuanced portraiture; Tóibín is a master himself at masking and unmasking, at revealing exactly what he must and nothing more. Luxuriously rendered, his fiction shares with that of James a wealth of piercing, precise observation; loaded, subtle gestures; and "exhilarating duplicities."
Recommended by Jill Owens, Powells.com

Toibin's novel imagines the inner life of great American writer, Henry James. The result is a profound and moving examination of the price and pleasures of the artistic impulse. I agree with National Book Award finalist Shirley Hazzard when she says Toibin "is himself a master of his art."
Recommended by Jill Owens, Powells.com

Reading The Master was an unexpected pleasure. I was not particularly attached to Henry James (though this novel has provoked a renewed interest), nor am I often fond of historical or biographical fiction. The Master surpasses such stereotypes. Toibin's depiction of James is a nuanced, emotional portrait of an almost unknowable figure — the artist in a life more imagined than lived. Toibin's pacing and prose are exquisite; his novel is a graceful, thoughtful meditation on writing and philosophy, as well as an astute exercise in psychology. Its resonance has continued all year long.
Recommended by Kathi, Powells.com

At the start of the 1900s, Henry James produced three masterpieces in as many years: first The Wings of the Dove, then The Ambassadors, and next The Golden Bowl. The Master introduces James six years prior, in January 1895, on the eve of his great public failure, as "Guy Domville" premieres on the London stage and wholly, horribly, flops.

"Nothing had prepared him for this," Tóibín writes. "For his friends, this night would be entered into the annals of the unmentionable, pages in which he had so studiously avoided having his name appear."

Nothing could be worse than that, to be exposed.

The Master is provocative, nuanced portraiture; Tóibín is a master himself at masking and unmasking, at revealing exactly what he must and nothing more. Luxuriously rendered, his fiction shares with that of James a wealth of piercing, precise observation; loaded, subtle gestures; and "exhilarating duplicities."
Recommended by Kathi, Powells.com

Toibin's novel imagines the inner life of great American writer, Henry James. The result is a profound and moving examination of the price and pleasures of the artistic impulse. I agree with National Book Award finalist Shirley Hazzard when she says Toibin "is himself a master of his art."
Recommended by Kathi, Powells.com

Review-A-Day

"[T]he Irish novelist Colm Tóibín has written several subtly imagined works of fiction, including The Blackwater Lightship, which was short-listed for the 1999 Booker Prize. And, against all odds, he succeeds here. The Master is a small tour de force of a novel....[A] lovely portrait of the artist, rich in fictional truth." Paula Marantz Cohen, The Times Literary Supplement (read the entire Times Literary Supplement review)

"Tóibín's work displays the kind of depth and sensitivity that few authors can offer — or demand. After all, writing a novel that captures Henry James is like deriving an equation that calculates Albert Einstein. It's an audacious attempt that manages to beat the master at his own game, while avoiding the perils of parody or sycophancy. The result is a beautiful, haunting portrayal that measures the amplitude of silence and the trajectory of a glance in the life of one of the world's most astute social observers." Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor (read the entire Christian Science Monitor review)

"Few writers have been so well written about as Henry James. Tóibín is a wise and rapacious citizen of the Jamesian universe, an excellent reader of the biographies and of the literary criticism. In the end, though, he does all those works a disservice. For the James whom he creates on the page is a man who seems so utterly real, a creature of such vitality and pain, that he threatens to obscure or to overwhelm the actual man. I imagine that James would have been horrified by such a quantity of vitality; but when in the future I think of James, it will be Colm Tóibín's." Deborah Friedell, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Like Michael Cunningham in The Hours, Colm Tóibín captures the extraordinary mind and heart of a great writer. Brilliant and profoundly moving, The Master tells the story of Henry James, a man born into one of America's first intellectual families two decades before the Civil War. James left his country to live in Paris, Rome, Venice, and London among privileged artists and writers.

In stunningly resonant prose, Tóibín captures the loneliness and longing, the hope and despair of a man who never married, never resolved his sexual identity, and whose forays into intimacy inevitably failed him and those he tried to love. The emotional intensity of Tóibín's portrait of James is riveting. Time and again, James, a master of psychological subtlety in his fiction, proves blind to his own heart and incapable of reconciling his dreams of passion with his own fragility.

Tóibín is "a great and humanizing writer" who describes complex relationships in "supple, beautifully modulated prose" (The Washington Post Book World). In The Master, he has written his most ambitious and heartbreaking novel, an extraordinarily inventive encounter with a character at the cusp of the modern age, elusive to his own friends and even family, yet astonishingly vivid in these pages.

Review:

"There's little in Colm Tóibín's previous work, to some of which this reviewer has been immune or even mildly allergic, to prepare for the startling excellence of his new novel. The Master is a portrait of Henry James that has the depth and finish of great sculpture." Adam Mars-Jones, The Observer

Review:

"A formidably brilliant performance." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Reviews)

Review:

"Even the reader who knows little about Henry James or his work can enjoy this marvelously intelligent and engaging novel, which presents not on a silver platter but in tender, opened hands a beautifully nuanced psychological portrait." Booklist (Starred Review)

Review:

"The subtlety and empathy with which Tóibín inhabits James's psyche and captures the fleeting emotional nuances of his world are beyond praise....Far more than a stunt, this is a riveting, if inevitably somewhat evasive, portrait of the creative life." Publishers Weekly

Review:

"This is an audacious, profound, and wonderfully intelligent book." The Guardian

Review:

"In The Master, Colm Tóibín takes us almost shockingly close to the soul of Henry James and, by extension, to the mystery of art itself. It is a remarkable, utterly original book." Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours

Review:

"A deep, lovely, and enthralling book that engages with the disquiet and drama of a famous writing life: splendidly conceived and composed by a writer who is himself a master of his art." Shirley Hazzard, author of The Great Fire and winner of the National Book Award

Review:

"Tóibín's enthralling novel displays — in a manner that is masterly — the wit and metaphorical flair, psychological subtlety and phrases of pouncing incisiveness with which a great novelist captured the nuances of consciousness and duplicities of society." Sunday Times Review

Review:

"If Leon Edel's five-volume life of Henry James is the literary equivalent of a vast but perfectly articulated symphony, this novel can best be described as a series of brilliant études based on themes derived from it." Francis King, Literary Review

Review:

"[S]crupulously researched and artfully rendered....Tóibín excels at showing us...the connections between James's life and his fictional oeuvre. Highly recommended." Library Journal

Review:

"Henry James, the greatest observer we have, is now made to observe himself in this meditation that is, oddly, both Olympian and troubled. Colm Tóibín has a perfect understanding of the greatest of all American writers and accompanies him to Rome, Newport, Paris, Florence, the London of Oscar Wilde. Nothing about this book, however, feels piecemeal or improvised; it is a sustained performance worthy of the Master." Edmund White

Review:

"Superbly controlled... this novel is a masterful, unshowy meditation on work, ambition, friendship, longing and mortality." Maureen N. McLane, Chicago Tribune

Review:

"The Master is unquestionably the work of a first-rate novelist." Daniel Mendelsohn, The New York Times Book Review

Synopsis:

It is January 1895 and Henry James's play Guy Domville, from which he hoped to make a fortune, has failed on the London stage. The Master opens with this disaster and takes James through the next five years, as having found his dream retreat, he moves to Rye in Sussex. It is there he writes his short masterpiece, The Turn of the Screw, in which he used much of his own life as an exile in England and a member of one of the great eccentric American families. He is impelled by the need to work and haunted by sections of his own past, including his own failure to fight in the American Civil War, the golden summer of 1865, and the death of his sister Alice. He is watchful and witty, relishing the England in which he has come to live and regretting the New England he has left.

About the Author

Colm TÓibÍn is the author of six novels, The South, The Heather Blazing, The Story of the Night, The Blackwater Lightship, The Master, and Brooklyn, as well as the story collection Mothers and Sons. He has been twice nominated for the Booker Prize. He lives in Dublin and New York.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780743250405
Publisher:
Scribner Book Company
Location:
New York
Author:
Toibin, Colm
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Fiction
Subject:
Authors
Subject:
England
Subject:
Americans
Subject:
Biographical fiction
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Number:
1st Scribner ed.
Series Volume:
0969
Publication Date:
May 1, 2004
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
352
Dimensions:
9 x 6.12 in 19.67 oz

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

The Master
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 352 pages Scribner Book Company - English 9780743250405 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Reading The Master was an unexpected pleasure. I was not particularly attached to Henry James (though this novel has provoked a renewed interest), nor am I often fond of historical or biographical fiction. The Master surpasses such stereotypes. Toibin's depiction of James is a nuanced, emotional portrait of an almost unknowable figure — the artist in a life more imagined than lived. Toibin's pacing and prose are exquisite; his novel is a graceful, thoughtful meditation on writing and philosophy, as well as an astute exercise in psychology. Its resonance has continued all year long.

"Staff Pick" by ,

At the start of the 1900s, Henry James produced three masterpieces in as many years: first The Wings of the Dove, then The Ambassadors, and next The Golden Bowl. The Master introduces James six years prior, in January 1895, on the eve of his great public failure, as "Guy Domville" premieres on the London stage and wholly, horribly, flops.

"Nothing had prepared him for this," Tóibín writes. "For his friends, this night would be entered into the annals of the unmentionable, pages in which he had so studiously avoided having his name appear."

Nothing could be worse than that, to be exposed.

The Master is provocative, nuanced portraiture; Tóibín is a master himself at masking and unmasking, at revealing exactly what he must and nothing more. Luxuriously rendered, his fiction shares with that of James a wealth of piercing, precise observation; loaded, subtle gestures; and "exhilarating duplicities."

"Staff Pick" by ,

Toibin's novel imagines the inner life of great American writer, Henry James. The result is a profound and moving examination of the price and pleasures of the artistic impulse. I agree with National Book Award finalist Shirley Hazzard when she says Toibin "is himself a master of his art."

"Staff Pick" by ,

Reading The Master was an unexpected pleasure. I was not particularly attached to Henry James (though this novel has provoked a renewed interest), nor am I often fond of historical or biographical fiction. The Master surpasses such stereotypes. Toibin's depiction of James is a nuanced, emotional portrait of an almost unknowable figure — the artist in a life more imagined than lived. Toibin's pacing and prose are exquisite; his novel is a graceful, thoughtful meditation on writing and philosophy, as well as an astute exercise in psychology. Its resonance has continued all year long.

"Staff Pick" by ,

At the start of the 1900s, Henry James produced three masterpieces in as many years: first The Wings of the Dove, then The Ambassadors, and next The Golden Bowl. The Master introduces James six years prior, in January 1895, on the eve of his great public failure, as "Guy Domville" premieres on the London stage and wholly, horribly, flops.

"Nothing had prepared him for this," Tóibín writes. "For his friends, this night would be entered into the annals of the unmentionable, pages in which he had so studiously avoided having his name appear."

Nothing could be worse than that, to be exposed.

The Master is provocative, nuanced portraiture; Tóibín is a master himself at masking and unmasking, at revealing exactly what he must and nothing more. Luxuriously rendered, his fiction shares with that of James a wealth of piercing, precise observation; loaded, subtle gestures; and "exhilarating duplicities."

"Staff Pick" by ,

Toibin's novel imagines the inner life of great American writer, Henry James. The result is a profound and moving examination of the price and pleasures of the artistic impulse. I agree with National Book Award finalist Shirley Hazzard when she says Toibin "is himself a master of his art."

"Review A Day" by , "[T]he Irish novelist Colm Tóibín has written several subtly imagined works of fiction, including The Blackwater Lightship, which was short-listed for the 1999 Booker Prize. And, against all odds, he succeeds here. The Master is a small tour de force of a novel....[A] lovely portrait of the artist, rich in fictional truth." (read the entire Times Literary Supplement review)
"Review A Day" by , "Tóibín's work displays the kind of depth and sensitivity that few authors can offer — or demand. After all, writing a novel that captures Henry James is like deriving an equation that calculates Albert Einstein. It's an audacious attempt that manages to beat the master at his own game, while avoiding the perils of parody or sycophancy. The result is a beautiful, haunting portrayal that measures the amplitude of silence and the trajectory of a glance in the life of one of the world's most astute social observers." (read the entire Christian Science Monitor review)
"Review A Day" by , "Few writers have been so well written about as Henry James. Tóibín is a wise and rapacious citizen of the Jamesian universe, an excellent reader of the biographies and of the literary criticism. In the end, though, he does all those works a disservice. For the James whom he creates on the page is a man who seems so utterly real, a creature of such vitality and pain, that he threatens to obscure or to overwhelm the actual man. I imagine that James would have been horrified by such a quantity of vitality; but when in the future I think of James, it will be Colm Tóibín's." (read the entire New Republic review)
"Review" by , "There's little in Colm Tóibín's previous work, to some of which this reviewer has been immune or even mildly allergic, to prepare for the startling excellence of his new novel. The Master is a portrait of Henry James that has the depth and finish of great sculpture."
"Review" by , "A formidably brilliant performance."
"Review" by , "Even the reader who knows little about Henry James or his work can enjoy this marvelously intelligent and engaging novel, which presents not on a silver platter but in tender, opened hands a beautifully nuanced psychological portrait."
"Review" by , "The subtlety and empathy with which Tóibín inhabits James's psyche and captures the fleeting emotional nuances of his world are beyond praise....Far more than a stunt, this is a riveting, if inevitably somewhat evasive, portrait of the creative life."
"Review" by , "This is an audacious, profound, and wonderfully intelligent book."
"Review" by , "In The Master, Colm Tóibín takes us almost shockingly close to the soul of Henry James and, by extension, to the mystery of art itself. It is a remarkable, utterly original book."
"Review" by , "A deep, lovely, and enthralling book that engages with the disquiet and drama of a famous writing life: splendidly conceived and composed by a writer who is himself a master of his art."
"Review" by , "Tóibín's enthralling novel displays — in a manner that is masterly — the wit and metaphorical flair, psychological subtlety and phrases of pouncing incisiveness with which a great novelist captured the nuances of consciousness and duplicities of society."
"Review" by , "If Leon Edel's five-volume life of Henry James is the literary equivalent of a vast but perfectly articulated symphony, this novel can best be described as a series of brilliant études based on themes derived from it."
"Review" by , "[S]crupulously researched and artfully rendered....Tóibín excels at showing us...the connections between James's life and his fictional oeuvre. Highly recommended."
"Review" by , "Henry James, the greatest observer we have, is now made to observe himself in this meditation that is, oddly, both Olympian and troubled. Colm Tóibín has a perfect understanding of the greatest of all American writers and accompanies him to Rome, Newport, Paris, Florence, the London of Oscar Wilde. Nothing about this book, however, feels piecemeal or improvised; it is a sustained performance worthy of the Master."
"Review" by , "Superbly controlled... this novel is a masterful, unshowy meditation on work, ambition, friendship, longing and mortality."
"Review" by , "The Master is unquestionably the work of a first-rate novelist."
"Synopsis" by , It is January 1895 and Henry James's play Guy Domville, from which he hoped to make a fortune, has failed on the London stage. The Master opens with this disaster and takes James through the next five years, as having found his dream retreat, he moves to Rye in Sussex. It is there he writes his short masterpiece, The Turn of the Screw, in which he used much of his own life as an exile in England and a member of one of the great eccentric American families. He is impelled by the need to work and haunted by sections of his own past, including his own failure to fight in the American Civil War, the golden summer of 1865, and the death of his sister Alice. He is watchful and witty, relishing the England in which he has come to live and regretting the New England he has left.
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